Episode 3: At Old White Death’s Door

“I bring you fast-break!”

Bonecarver, the shaman of the ice hunters, throws open the door to the hut and presents the adventurers with a large dish of dried fish, before sitting cross-legged in front of them and smiling.

“You need energy. You go kill dragon today!”

Loli eyes the fish suspiciously but takes a little piece for later.

“What can you tell us about the dragon that might ‘elp us?” she says. “An’ what do you know about ‘is mate? Is she likely to be in the lair too?”

Bonecarver shakes her head.

“Noooo. Only Old White Death live in iceberg. Other just fly round with dead man. Crazy dragon. She sad. Crazy, dangerous, violent, but sad.”

“An’ Old White Death?” Loli asks. “Is he crazy too?”

“Yes, but different crazy,” Bonecarver replies, fixing the gnome with her gaze. “He love himself and he crazy, but he also angry and man… manip… mani…”

“Manipulative?” Loli prompts. The shaman nods again.

“Yes, yes. They are pair, but they not mate for long time. Maybe that why dragon cross.”

Loli ponders this for a moment, then asks Bonecarver if there is anything else in the frozen caves below that they need to be wary of. The shaman shrugs.

“Trolls,” she says. “And toads. But it safe. You go now, yes? Kill dragon.”

Standing up, she pulls back one of the rugs to reveal a circular piece of wood that appears to have been constructed from driftwood and salvaged ship boards. She beckons them to help her lift it and together they pull it to one side, revealing a large hole in the ice with carved steps that lead down into the darkness.

“Down there,” she says, pointing. “Little red person go down there but she not come back.”

Raddak gulps.

“Do the trolls and toads serve the dragon?” he whispers, peering from the hole to the shaman and then back again. Bonecarver thinks for a moment.

“It go dragon, then troll, then toad, then ice hunter. But you kill dragon and you free ice hunter.”

“We will try,” answers Loli, trying to sound confident and putting on a brave face.

“You will do,” says Bonecarver. “Or you will die, little Goblin. Dragon will kill you.”

Loli’s brave face turns into an indignant frown, but the shaman is already halfway out of the door and doesn’t notice.

“Oh, and if you see other dead adventure people inside, just leave them, yes? Okay, I go now.”

Raddak turns to his cat, who is now pure white, and asks him to head off down the stairs in front of them, just to check that it will be safe. Ziggy gives him a look that is unique to felines, then pads into the darkness but, at forty feet down, he encounters a thick mist and stops, not being able to see any further.

Moon, who also now has white fur and white clothes thanks to her Hat of Disguise, ties a rope around her waist and takes up a position at the back, anchoring herself with her crampons and ice axe. Yaseino leads, tying the other end of the rope around his own waist, and the others all hang onto the rope that joins the two. They head carefully down to where Ziggy is waiting, with only a couple of inconsequential slips along the way, then the cat travels a bit further.

In this way they descend 110 feet through the mist to a small room with another hole in the floor, housing a ladder that leads even further down. At the bottom of this ladder, they find themselves in a large, dark, domed room carved from the ice itself. Above them, the ceiling has been decorated with a beautiful relief of two dragons flying together, one with a rider who holds his arms wide as magical energy crackles from his fingertips.

Taking a moment, Raddak casts Locate Creature to see if he can find any indication that Maccath the Crimson is somewhere in these caverns. The only Tiefling he senses is somewhere to the south-west of them, so he points this out to his friends and they all creep forward into the tunnels that lead from the domed room.

Turning left at a junction, they find themselves in another corridor which also has reliefs carved into it, although not displaying quite as much artistry. Many types of dragon fly across the walls as, below them, smaller crudely-carved figures of kobolds gaze up at them in awe, and this is borne out when the adventurers peer into a dishevelled room to one side and see twelve kobolds occupying themselves with various tasks. Some are asleep; a few more play a game in one corner, while another one mends some clothing. On the other side of the room, one sharpens a whalebone while another picks at the wall of ice, carving more basic figures into the mural.

Moon sneaks around the wall of this room to an archway in the north but, on finding no other exits from there, she returns to the group. They narrowly avoid being discovered by a group of large toads dressed in warrior armour and holding swords, then head back in the same direction they’d come from, passing the exit to the domed room with the carved ceiling.

Further along the passageway, Loli pokes her head around another doorway and then sends Moon in for a closer look. The rogue sneaks inside and is stunned to see two giants looming out the darkness in front of her, both dead and mounted on podiums like some sort of trophy. The corridor they have been following north bears to the west before turning south, giving the impression that its route is circular. Loli peers into each room they pass. She finds no sign of the Tiefling arcanist; one room yields only the sound of running water, while another seems to be bustling with movement and the tapping of tools against ice. She decides against venturing into either of these but does go inside a much quieter room that appears to be empty. However, the adventurers are surprised by another group of toads in warrior garb who enter the room from a separate doorway and, after staring in shock at each other for a moment, they end up fighting. Unfortunately, the toads aren’t much of a match for the band of heroes, and the group actually feel a little bad for dispatching them. Still, Raddak searches them, and then they all move the bodies to a niche in one of the walls of the room, where they are less likely to raise an alarm by being spotted from the corridor.

While the others hang back, Moon stealthily investigates the second exit and discovers that it leads to another large room with a strange shelter in the centre of it that appears to be constructed of rugs and tapestries draped over whale bones. The Tabaxi sneaks around the outside of it but can see only one entrance, so she takes a chance and pushes the flap to one side for a sneaky peak at the interior.

Inside, the shelter is warm thanks to a small stove at one end, and exotic scents waft through the air from various wisps of smoke, reminding Moon of her homeland. Scrolls, parchments and book are stacked up beside a portable writing desk and, seated at the desk, a Tiefling wearing a cloak that is fastened with an Arcane Brotherhood brooch has her head lowered in concentration. Behind her are two kobold attendants. The Tabaxi quietly steps back outside, closing the flap behind her, and stealths back towards Raddak, who has also walked into the room.

“Maccath is inside,” she whispers to the Kobold, but their conversation is cut short as Loli attempts to join them, slips on the ice, and lets out a rather crass exclamation. There are some thumping footfalls, and a Troll stomps over to where they’re standing.

“What’s going on here, who are you?”

Raddak puffs up his chest.

“We are a delegation from the outside. We have come to see the lady Maccath.”

“Err, okay,” replies the Troll. He’s a little confused, but he sticks his head into the tent and clears his throat as if he’s trying to sound as important as Raddak.

“Mistress, there is a delegation from the outside to see you.”

He nods, pulls his head back out and waves the three of them across.

“You can go in,” he says gruffly, then thuds back off to his position on guard at another exit.

At the back of the room, Mirik asks Yaseino if they should join their friends, but just then Loli pokes her head back out of the shelter’s flap and waves her arm, gesturing for them to come forward.

“The rest of our delegation are just coming!” she shouts, then disappears back inside.

Mirik shrugs.

“Actually, I think the decision has just been made for us, young hare.”

Maccath stands as the adventurers enter her shelter, then turns to face them in a defiant manner.

“So, have you come to save me or kill me?” she demands, her eyes flashing. “Speak!”

Raddak steps forward.

“Save you, if you actually need saving,” he replies. “How long have you been here?”

Maccath seems to relax a bit and sits back down at her desk.

“I came here three years ago. Most of my party were killed, but Old White Death saw in me the opportunity to replace the corpse of the wizard Melthurond and thus please his mate, so he let me live but imprisoned me here. In the meantime, I have been working to translate the texts that the dragon stole from the Arcane Brotherhood. It has been quite challenging.”

Raddak gives her a sympathetic look then lowers his voice, aware that two other Kobolds are still in the room with them.

“Are you aware that the Draakhorn has been sounded?” he asks.

The arcanist narrows her eyes, then sends the two Kobolds to fetch refreshments before answering him.

“You know of the Draakhorn? Tell me everything you know and what brought you here.”

“Well,” says Raddak. “The Cult of the Dragon were trying to raise Tiamat from the Nine Hells but we stopped them by bringing down Skyreach Castle with the help of a giant and depriving them of the treasure they needed but then there was a big meeting at Waterdeep and all the factions are working together to try to stop the Cult, and there are dragon masks and we met a lady who was trying to find the white one but we don’t know if she did or not, and then the Draakhorn sounded and the chromatic dragons were all answering but the metallic dragons haven’t yet, and we came here looking for you because the Council said that you would have a lot of information to help stop the Cult and they want us to find you and bring you back to the city.” He takes a deep breath and smiles hopefully. Maccath raises her eyebrows.

“And do you have any evidence to support this?”

The friends take out the parchment given to them by Lord Neverember, granting them emergency investigative powers on behalf of the Council, and hand it to the arcanist. She reads it, nods, then hands it back.

“It would appear that we are allies,” she says, leaning back in her chair. “What an interesting band they’ve sent to fetch me! So, the Draakhorn. It was here until about six months ago, when a group of people in robes, one of them dressed in purple, came to Oyaviggaton and negotiated with the dragon to remove it.”

“The Cult of the Dragon,” replies Loli. Maccath nods and continues.

“This is no small item, either. The Draakhorn is fashioned from the horn of Ephelemon, Tiamat’s red dragon consort, and requires three creatures to operate it. But I do not know where they took it.”

She sighs heavily, then stands.

“I will come with you, but I need you to do something for me first, something very important.”

Maccath explains to the adventurers that all the books stolen from the Arcane Brotherhood by Old White Death must be recovered and taken with them, as they’re far too valuable to leave behind. They are all contained in the Scriptorium. She hands a Bag of Holding to Loli to make it easier for all the documents to be collected, and then warns them not to be tempted to read any of them. In addition, the ruler of the Ice Toads, Marfulb, has been working on history documents and star charts, which she believes would also be vital to protect.

Lastly, the arcanist tells them that the troll does not permit her to leave the shelter, and that if Old White Death discovers she has left Oyaviggaton, he will hunt them down and slaughter them all.

“You must kill the dragon,” she says quietly. “Or there is no hope of escape for any of us.”

The Scriptorium is a strange place. Three large bookshelves, all constructed from driftwood and scrap, have been placed against the walls around a large hole in the floor, which Maccath has told them leads to Arauthator’s lair. The shelves are stacked with books, all bearing the insignia of the Arcane Brotherhood, so Loli immediately starts shoving them into the Bag of Holding. There are also some scrolls that don’t have any insignia, which Raddak takes for himself with his Mage Hand, much to Loli’s chagrin. All is going well, until Yaseino attempts to get past the hole in the floor to look at the last bookshelf, loses his footing on the slippery edge and slides straight into it.

“Yaseino!” shouts Mirik in shock, peering into the darkness.

Raddak sends him a message telling him not to move and that they’ll be down for him shortly, which Yaseino answers so that they know he’s okay. Meanwhile, Loli levitates herself and Moon shoves her over the hole to the last bookshelf so that she can gather up the remaining books, while Mirik throws a rope down the hole and yells to the monk.

“Yaseino! Catch hold of the rope!”

“Hold of the rope!”

“Hold of the rope!”

“Hold of the rope!”

The echoes of the druid’s voice are loud and long, and with a resigned look at each other, the friends all jump into the hole after Yaseino, knowing that anything down there is probably perfectly aware that they’re coming.

Never one to do what he’s told, the monk has definitely not stayed put and has instead wandered off to explore his new surroundings. Yaseino concludes that he’s in a vast ice cavern, and a couple of eight-foot drops have brought him to the slippery floor of the cave. He spins around and smiles to himself as he hears his friends arrive through the hole, and in a short while they’ve all climbed down to join him. And just in time too, as they’re jumped by two Scrags who have been disturbed by the intrusion.

By the time they’ve fought the Scrags and destroyed them, their chances of surprising Old White Death have well and truly gone down the pan. Still, they keep moving stealthily as they explore the enormous cavern just in case there are any more Ice Trolls lurking in the corners, but after a couple of hours they’re starting to wonder if the dragon is even there. Upon exploring a jagged structure that looks like a spine of ice and seeing nothing, they’re about to head for the exit when they trigger a choking, foul-smelling cloud of gas to erupt from the floor.

A deep chuckle echoes from the far western end of the cavern.

“You have been entertainment enough, but I think it is time to end this.”

They find Arauthator crouched on the jutting ice at the end of the spine, amid pools of sea water that ebb and surge with the movement of Oyaviggaton; a huge, white, adult dragon. Moon rushes forward with her dagger drawn and her death weasel on her shoulder, as the little creature shrieks in an attempt to distract the enormous one. Yaseino leaps over one of the pools and heads south, his fists raised, and Mirik dashes north and holds there. Loli opens her Bag of Tricks and pulls out a fluffy ball, throwing it to the ground in front of her and watching it turn into a large bear. She hops onto its back with a whoop as Raddak casts Bless upon her, Moon and Mirik.

The dragon laughs again, then draws himself up to its full height, spreads his wings and gives a frightful roar. Moon and Raddak are frightened beyond belief, and when Arauthator bites and claws at the little Kobold, he strikes hard. Moon is frozen in place with fear, but she manages to take a swig of her flask and use her Alcoholic Haze to buff Raddak a little. Gotham screeches his displeasure at the dragon and then flattens himself on top of Moon’s backpack, while Yaseino lands a few punches on Old White Death, deftly avoiding a swipe from the creature’s tail. To the north, a Healing Spirit bursts from Mirik’s hand before she grabs her crossbow to fire off a bolt. The dragon roars, surrounded by a group of adventurers who are firing at him from all directions.

Hanging on to her bear, Loli commands it to run forward and take both a bite and a claw attack at Arauthator, then she casts Burning Hands at him from its back. The dragon shrugs it off and takes an attack back at her as she urges the bear to run away. Raddak casts his Spiritual Weapon and then whacks at his prey with a Sacred Flame, overcoming his fear and standing tall against his foe, but Old White Death has other plans. He beats his wings and launches himself into the air, letting loose a breath of freezing air that hits nearly all the adventurers at once and causes damage to each of them. Gotham disappears, as does Loli’s bear, although Ziggy manages to hang in there.

Moon is still terrified of the dragon and not managing to get much done at all; she makes a half-hearted swipe at him with her dagger and causes him a little damage, but Yaseino hurts him more with his Fist of Unbroken Air. Mirik fires Magic Arrows from her position far up to the north of the creature, while Loli tries to blight him, angry at the demise of her bear. Arauthator is having none of it and swipes his tail at Moon, who dodges uncannily out of the way, negating some of the injury. Raddak cures his own wounds as he’s not feeling very healthy, then gets a hit in with his Spiritual Weapon, grinning as he sees it strike. His smile fades, though, when the dragon breathes an exploding snowflake towards himself and Mirik.

The battle rages on, with the adventurers keeping the pressure on Arauthator despite most of them being low on health and one of them still being unable to shake off the fright. But when the dragon takes a large amount of accumulated damage from the group he finally decides that he’s had enough, flies up into the air and then dives into one of the pools, turning the water red with his blood and staining the ice around it. Breathing hard, the friends aren’t sure what to do. They haven’t killed Old White Death, but they don’t really have any chance of finding him either, so Loli puts up her hut in a far corner of the cavern and they all take a long rest to heal their wounds.

In the morning, they realise that Arauthator’s treasure is frozen into an ice wall next to the hut, including a few of the books that they’ve been hunting for Maccath. Moon tries to use the ice pick to hack them out of their icy resting place but it proves too difficult, so Loli uses her Burning Hands to melt the ice just in front of the books, enabling them to be pulled free and put into the Bag of Holding. Seeing that other treasures are also encased in the ice wall, Moon turns to Loli.

“Could you use that spell to melt the wall and release some of the gold and jewels too?” she asks the warlock. Loli nods, then happily sprays the wall with fire, melting it quick and fast.

Raddak immediately moves in to pick up the treasure, but Loli sticks out her foot and trips him up, stepping over him to grab a couple of spell scrolls and quite a few of the precious stones. The Kobold joins in, scooping the rest of it into his bag so that, between the two of them, they pocket the entire hoard.

Getting back to the hole they entered the cavern through, Loli casts Fly on Moon, Yaseino and Mirik and Levitate on herself, while Raddak unfolds his wings, and all of them ascend safely back up to the Scriptorium. Maccath is delighted at their return, especially when she realises that they have all the books she requested.

“We have already heard that Arauthator has fled, injured,” she says happily, leading them back through the corridors. “News travels fast. The trolls are all leaving, and the kobolds don’t seem to know what to do. And with the books returned, you will certainly have earned the favour of the Arcane Brotherhood. Would you accompany me to Marfulb’s quarters before we leave so that we can discuss her research?”

The friends agree and follow the arcanist, then listen to the ensuing ‘ribbetting’ conversation during which the ruler of the Ice Toads tells them that she doesn’t believe Old White Death will return following such a humiliating defeat, being far too proud to show his face again for a while. Relieved at this news, the adventurers relax a bit. Moon even tries to ribbet, but ends up sounding quite insulting.

However, Marfulb is reluctant to move all her documents and works, and elects to stay behind to continue her research. Maccath is saddened at this but accepts the Toad’s decision. She takes the group to another room, telling them that they must visit it before they go as they deserve a reward for what they’ve achieved. The room is filled with trophies, including a fully-reconstructed long ship; it’s the Blind Faith, the ship on which Captain Larustah served and which was captured by the dragon. It’s not built quite right, but it’s close enough to give the impression that it’s seaworthy.

Running on board, Raddak finds a chest on the deck that he estimates to hold around 1,500gp, so he scoops it into his bag. Loli finds a shortsword, but while Moon looks around for something relating to the ship itself, she can’t find anything. Instead, she pulls out a piece of parchment and some charcoal and makes a rubbing of the ship’s name to give to Captain Larustah, even though the name hasn’t been reconstructed quite correctly.

“I have one more thing for you before we leave,” says Maccath, and produces a Bag of Holding which she gives to Raddak, who happily empties his hoard into it.

Back at the Ice Hunters village on the surface of Oyaviggaton, there is much celebration and rejoicing going on when the group arrives back there. Bonecarver runs up to them, shakes their hands and pats their shoulders.

“You our souls!” she beams, as the friends hear something completely different and exchange confused looks.

“I mean, you save our souls!” corrects the shaman. “Dragon is gone, we leave now!” She smiles again, then dashes off to join her townsfolk, some of which are dancing while others are packing up huts and supplies, readying themselves to leave.

On the way down to the place where the Frostskimmer is docked, Maccath recognises three of her crew members frozen into the wall they’d seen on the way up the path to the village, but she doesn’t seem to particularly care that they have been killed as, for her, it happened over three years previously. Captain Larustah steps off the Frostskimmer as they approach and greets them warmly. They introduce him to Maccath and he welcomes her on board as well, consenting to take her to Waterdeep.

“Ahoy!”

One of the sailors calls out and points back towards the iceberg, which has been put to Frostskimmer’s stern. In the darkening skies is a faint shadow, badly injured, but trailing them.

“Ol’ White Death’,” whispers the captain. “’E be too hurt to put up any fight, e’s just makin’ his presence known.”

They watch the shadow for a while, then Moon gives Larustah the rubbing she made of the long ship’s nameplate.

“We found this ship within the iceberg,” she says. “We think it is the one you served on?”

The captain stares at it for a while before realising what the mixed-up letters actually say.

“Aarh,” he whispers. “That be my ship. It’s inside there?”

Moon nods, and then Raddak pulls a bag full of coins from his Bag of Holding.

“I think this is belongs to you,” he says. “It’s from a chest we found on the deck of that ship.”

Captain Larustah’s mouth drops open and he takes the bag with tears in his eyes, thanking the Kobold profusely as he does so.

Later that evening, Raddak sends a message to Lord Neverember, explaining to him what has happened and advising that they have found Maccath the Crimson. The reply that comes back to him is strange to say the least.

“Things are changing here. I can say no more. Where are you now?”

“Still on the Sea of Moving Ice,” Raddak replies. “bearing to Waterdeep. Should we go elsewhere? Help?”

“Skyreach Castle is being repaired,” Lord Neverember says, a little cagily. “Go to the Spine of the World and make sure you bring it back. The Miklos Glacier. Send the Tiefling back with Larustah.”

Raddak tells Larustah of the new plans, and the spirits of the captain and his crew seem to drop when they realise that they won’t be taking the adventurers back to the safety of Waterdeep. However, Larustah agrees to drop them off at the closest point to the Spine of the World, then tells them that they can get to the Miklos Glacier by climbing the first mountain and taking the pass that leads to a peak called the Promentary. The glacier originates there and leads down.

The next day, they reach a point where the Frostskimmer can dock, and see the distant peaks of the Spine of the World. Thanking Captain Larustah, the group all step ashore, but the captain stops Yaseino and speaks to him.

“I see something in you, young hare,” he says. “Something I don’t see too often. I can tell that you’re a very spiritual person, but that shouldn’t be something you keep to yourself. Share it, and use your spirituality to ‘elp your friends too.”

Yaseino nods, not quite understanding the message but being polite, then joins his friends again, ready to make the trek to the mountains.

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